House passes bill to reduce deadliness of landslides

The U.S. House has passed a bill to reduce the deadliness of landslides a day after one in Alaska, though the motivation for the proposed law came from a 2014 Washington state landslide.

The bill, which passed on Thursday, was initially introduced in 2016, two years after the Oso landslide killed 43 people.

Washington Democratic Rep. Suzan DelBene, who introduced the bill, said its provisions would help broaden scientific knowledge about landslides and develop better protocols on how best to respond to them.

“As the Oso landslide demonstrated, simply sending aid after a tragic natural disaster is insufficient,” DelBene said. “We need to do more to fund programs and research efforts to prevent natural disasters from becoming national tragedies.”

The U.S. Geological Survey would also be tasked with developing a publicly accessible national landslide hazard database and strengthening an early warning system for debris flow.

The bill must now go before the Senate and President for approval. The Senate had passed a similar bill before the House’s revised version was approved. DelBene’s staff told Alaska Public Media that it was highly likely that the Senate would approve the revised bill.

On Saturday, authorities in Alaska continued the search for two people missing after a landslide slammed into a neighborhood in Haines earlier this week. The debris field estimated to be 600 feet wide took out four homes. Missing were David Simmons, who owned one of those homes, and Jenae Larson, who rented an apartment above Simmons’ garage.